One of the cancellations this spring was our annual RCIA Retreat. It is a day of prayer and reflection filled with anticipation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that await the Candidates and Catechumens at the Easter Vigil. Practical advice on how to live life as a new Catholic is also a focal point of the retreat but now that wisdom must be passed on virtually rather than personally. In conversation with one of our RCIA Candidates, a mother of two boys in elementary school, she presented me with these questions:
In all our learning and our faith journey this far, I am in search of guides on how to balance it all. What does it look like to thread our faith through each facet of our lives? What does it look like to parent catholic and to work as a catholic and to not allow ourselves to put other things in front of God? I guess we all will search for that balance for a long time.
There are so many mothers that I admire here at St. Margaret, so I reached out to a few of them with these questions so that our candidate could hear from someone other than myself. My intent was to just forward their email replies and be done. What came back were words of beauty and strength of character and ordinary lives threaded with the gift of faith and forgiveness and perseverance. My heart was moved, and I knew they needed to be shared. Thanks be to God each Mom agreed and as we approach Mother’s Day, we will share these with you.
I'm a firm believer in "start where you are" and "meet everyone where they are". Life is different for each one us. The great thing is that God offers us infinite mercy. It's an amazing thing to think about. Infinite. Mercy. As I grow in my Catholic faith each day (because, seriously, there is a LOT to learn), I ponder that a lot. I'm not perfect, and yet, He gives me every day to try my best and he loves me every step of the way. Each day God meets me where I am and for that, I'm so thankful.
I try mimic that in my family life. My kids and husband each have their own distinct personalities. They each take on their faith in different ways. I meet them where they are, each day, every day. I can't expect my husband to be where I am in my active faith journey, because that isn't who he is, but I do know he'll catch up to me, I just have to wait and pray for him while he catches up. And he always catches up. My oldest child worries a lot. When he worries, we talk about calling on Mary to help, especially when I'm not physically there to help. He thinks it's pretty cool to ask the world's greatest mother for a hug when he needs it. Sometimes he doesn't audibly participate in our prayers and I've learned that I can't assume he isn't praying in his own way and that I can't just give up, because it feels helpless. Same kid, different day. Heck, sometimes it's simply a different hour. I just keep praying. Some days the scales lean one, frustrating, deflated way, the next they can lean the opposite. Trust, for me, is the key to balance. I trust that the scale will balance, because I trust in God's will. It's fascinating to see how each of them surrender in their own ways.
I try to live my Catholic faith by example and by what God calls us to do - to share our time, talents, and treasures. By nature, I am a thankful person. It's how I start every single prayer - thank you God for your love! I thank God for everything, even for merging safely onto the highway, and for not cutting my fingers when I cut onions. Years ago I realized that I needed to audibly voice those prayers that I always kept to myself so my kids would see how amazing God is. Now, we say those little prayers all the time. My little guy will ask to say a Hail Mary while driving or playing in the family room. It's amazing what little prayers can lead to!
We pray before all meals (even at restaurants) and pray as a family at night, when they are tucked in their beds. All of those are structured prayers. We say the typical Catholic meal prayer and then at night we say 2 prayers that I grew up saying. One is the prayer to their guardian angel and the other is a prayer that I actually don't know the origin of, but it's lovely and spot on. Here goes - "Help me God to love you more, than I ever loved before. In my work and in my play, please be with me through the day. God bless (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles) and all my friends." I know, that even if I mess up anything in my kids’ lives, and seriously I probably am, they have those simple words. They know to call on God to help them, even if they don't fully grasp the weight of that at their current young ages. They are never alone. God is there!
I'm big on praying the rosary as well. When I first became a mother, my mom shared a nugget of wisdom after I struggled with taking a toddler to mass. She said, "Mary was a mother too". Talk about a game changer! While I didn't birth the son of God, I did give birth to two children, made in his likeness and my connection to Mary was set. Remember when Mary lost Jesus in the caravan only to find him in the temple? Did she think she messed up when she couldn't find him? Was she trying to hold it together during those “rough days” when they couldn't find him? I've been there, but Mary has too and that gives me comfort. I once asked Fr. Bedel if it was okay to pray the rosary while I folded laundry/drove/cleaned and his response was awesome. He essentially challenged me to reverse my thinking. Why not think of it as folding the laundry/driving/cleaning while I prayed the rosary. Where your thoughts lie, so does your treasure, right?? (And thank you Fr. Bedel)
The rosary is easy to pray with kids too. Ruah Woods put out a book called "On a Mission to Love" and it's awesome! A decade doesn't take very long to pray so it's pretty manageable for kids! Now we've worked up to full rosaries, complete with a Mary statue to gaze upon while we pray. Again, some days this works better than others. I've also gotten better at "reading the room" before I try to pray a family rosary. Not the best idea to try and start a rosary in the middle of a viewing of Star Wars, but a quick decade before we start usually works. Again, I meet them where they are.
Another fun thing I do, and actually started the rest of my family on too, is learning new prayers. The Catholic church has so many amazing prayers! The fun part comes in HOW we are learning them. (I actually, faithfully, took this from another amazing SMOY mom, so the credit goes to her). As moms we're always in the car hauling people and things from one place to another and somehow, we're always late. She suggested that, instead of focusing on how late we are, why not learn the Memorare? Now we are focused on the prayer instead of the endless St. Rt, 22/3 traffic!
As far as resources go, I am a huge fan of Blessed is She. Last year I purchased their Lenten devotional and each day I thought, "Wow! I've been there!" It's a pretty incredible sisterhood. My husband has really loved being a part of SMOY Father's Team. That's right, 6:03 am and my husband gladly shows up every Friday. Also, I HIGHLY recommend the Cana Family Institute. I'm in my last year and these women have been an invaluable part of my faith journey.
I also echo what Carrie and Erin shared in regard to getting together. Even if we can just get together and do a rosary on Zoom and then grab a glass of wine or beer and share some fellowship. Sometimes just a small invitation to put a name with a face you see at mass can raise comfort and confidence levels!
"Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love." - St. Therese of Lisieux
Guest Post Written By: Carrie Lipps
Part 5 and the final post from a mom's perspective will be posted May 8, 2020